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Five-0 Redux

Garnett a blessed Hawaiian dude

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Hawaii actor and musician Shawn Mokuahi Garnett would be the first to tell you he is a blessed man. Not only is he having the “greatest experience” playing Cousin Flippa on “Hawaii Five-0,” but as a new father and a rising star on the local music scene, he is grateful his stars have aligned.

“Everyday I’m thankful to be a part of the show,” he said.

I first met Garnett at a “Five-0” fan event at Big City Diner Pearlridge during season three and loved how easy he was to talk with, and how kind and unassuming he was with fans. He calls everyone “dude,” even his young son, who is “Little Dude.” He hugs everyone and always has a big smile — and if you ask for a picture, he will shyly say, “Sure, dude,” before he mugs for the camera. He is just as awestruck by all of us, asking for pictures or to sign memorabilia, as we starstruck by him.

Once we all got to know Garnett, his lovely wife Brandye and his darling son, Shawn Jr., we found a down-to-earth guy, a dedicated family man and a talented singer who just also happened to be a recurring character on our favorite television show.

I’ve spoken with Garnett on several occasions, but recently got a chance to ask him specific questions about his time on “Hawaii Five-0.” Viewers first met Kamekona’s cousin Flippa in “Hā‘awe Make Loa” (“Death Wish”) when the pair got to hang with the Victoria Secret Angels.

“My Uncle Tim played a “dead guy” on ‘Hawaii Five-0,’” Garnett said. “He told me to go through the casting website and apply to be an extra.

“So after filling out the application, I attended an extras meet and greet (where extras casting takes your picture and gets your stats so you can be called to be in the background during shooting). After a few months, I got a call from casting saying they wanted me to audition for Cousin Flippa.”

Garnett said there was a lot of waiting involved between applying and the meet and greet — and even while being cast — but it was all very much worth the wait.

“My first scene … was with Scott Caan, Alex O’Loughlin and Taylor Wily,” he said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘WHAT the hell am I doing here?’

“Was I nervous? I guess I’m always used to this kind of stuff being thrown into my life. Working with Michelle Borth, Dennis Chun, Daniel Dae Kim, Masi Oka, and Grace Park — man, I am so honored.”

Garnett was quick to share his experiences on set and what it’s really like to work with the stars of the show.

“On set, they’re really cool,” he said. “I try not to talk a lot to them because I know they’re busy people, but when I do, we have normal conversations.

“Whether it’s talking to Scott (Caan) about surfing or Daniel (Dae Kim) about where he can find the best Korean Food on the island (which is Dong Yang Inn in Wahiawā), or watching Michelle (Borth) and Alex (OʻLoughlin) play MY guitar! Dude, I’m not washing my guitar ever!

“I totally forgot about Chi McBride — he is the coolest, most classiest guy ever. We talk about his golf game and my tattoos. And I can’t forget about Dennis Chun. He’s such a good man, such a professional.

“And my TV cousin, Taylor (Wily), Big T. He’s a good braddah. He loves his family and loves his job. After a few episodes, I do feel like he’s my big cuz. In Hawaii, us Braddahs have a connection, one way or another. I am just so blessed to be working with him and everyone in the cast and crew.”

I asked Garnett about his favorite moments on set, and he spoke about working with special guest star Carol Burnett.

“Seriously, every episode I’m in, I’m ecstatic,” he said. “It’s so cool to work with these great actors, but the most awesome experience I had was working with Carol Burnett. I grew up watching her show. Granted, it was all reruns, but nevertheless, she made an impression on me. I hope they bring back Aunt Deb.”

Garnett also had nice things to say about director and stunt coordinator, Jeff Cadiente.

“I’ve worked with Jeff on a couple episodes,” he said. “First one was the infamous Sumo Flippa episode. He coordinated all the falls and action.

“Little side note: I really got (busted) up that day! That was hard work. Just recently, Jeff directed me in (April 25 episode) ‘Pe’epe’e Kānaka.’ He’s such a cool dude.” 

Garnett was born and raised in Hawaii, mostly in the Mililani area, and graduated from Hanalani Schools. 

“Hawaii is my home. My own HQ,” he said. “Being Native Hawaiian means a lot to me and it stems from my name. My middle name Kauaʻawa Mokuahi. Kauaʻawa was given from Great Grandma Mokuahi, who was 100 percent Hawaiian and didn’t even speak English. It means ‘Warrior’ and it gets passed down to the first born male. My son, Shawn Jr., has this name.

“Mokuahi is my family name, it means ‘Steamboat.’ I chose to use Shawn Mokuahi Garnett as my acting name, because, well, my Grandma told me to use it. I just wanted to represent my family name.”

If you were lucky enough to have attended the season four premiere “Sunset on the Beach” in 2013, you may have heard Garnett playing his guitar and singing. He has the most amazing voice and is quite entertaining on stage. It’s usually just Garnett and his guitar, and he is a sight and sound to behold.

“Since being on ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ I’ve had a bunch of people from around the world come and see me play,” he said. “So my career has definitely gotten better with more and more people hearing my music. It’s so weird to think that people actually watch the show and remember me. Just goes to show you how much this show means to people. And they get to see the beautiful shots of my home.”

Garnett may think folks want to see him because of his “Five-0” connection, but after meeting him and having him hug you or shake your hand like you’re his cuz, you’ll understand why people want to hear him play and spend a few hours with him. He’s definitely a blessed Hawaiian dude.


CBS aired a repeat of “ʻAʻale Maʻa Wau” (“Fish out of water”) this week. Next week will be the start of the final new episodes of season four, with “Pe’epe’e Kānaka” (“Those Among Us”) on April 25 and “Makani ʻOlu a Holo Mālie (“Fair Winds and Following Seas”) on May 2.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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  • Shawn my lovely friend. Such a lovely guy. I have talked to him a couple of times and like you say he acts like a normal guy. Trust me when you meet him don’t be shy just go up and ask for his autograph and a hug he’ll do it. I can’t wait to meet him and see him play his guitar and sing wonderful guy <3 ya Shawn!

  • Thank you so much Wendie for your never ending insights and great access to both the stars and guests who make Five-0 my favorite show. Shawn is a great addition to the recurring cast. One thing Peter Lenkov said from the very beginning, how he wanted to make his Five-0 different from the original, was for viewers to get to know the characters on a more personal level, to see who they were when they went home at night. It’s really great that along with the main cast we also get to see some family for Kamekona too. I know we can’t see the extended families of everyone, it would just be too cumbersome, but having Flippa there adds a touch of Ohana and that’s what Five-0 is really about. Besides, he’s a load of fun. I LOVED seeing bested by that little girl sumo wrestling LOL

    Shawn seems to be a really nice, down to earth family man, talented and grateful for all he has achieved. I’m so glad Five-0 can be counted as part of that and that we get to share in his talent.

    • Hi Linda- I agree with you- having Flippa added to the cast really does add more of a sense of ‘ohana to the show. And even though he and Taylor Wily are added for comic relief- Shawn IRL is such a great person that I just enjoy getting to see him on screen. I guess it’s like seeing Dennis Chun or Teilor Grubbs- we just cheer for those we have met and connected with. It’s like seeing good friends every week:) Thanks for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

  • I think it’s always a blessing to get to work on the very best show on television (I might be a little biased here but that’s what my favorite show H50 is to me) and to get to experience working with big stars like the lovely Carol Burnett and, of course, the fantastic main cast, too.
    It’s good to hear that Shawn appreciates having this great opportunity but he deserves it, too. Not only is he a super-likeable guy (I trust in your opinion since I haven’t met him myself) but he’s also a lot of fun to watch on H50 and he’s just perfectly cast as Kamekona’s cousin Flippa. I hope we get to see more of these great braddahs 😉

    • Hi Angela- When you visit us from Germany- I’m sure you will meet Shawn- he’s completely accessible and a totally nice guy. And so fun to be around. We love him as Flippa- and only hope he gets a few more lines and action:) Thanks for reading and sharing the Redux. Aloha, Wendie

  • Wendie,
    As always a great post. I especially like your comments about the local cast members. This gives us a real insight. I have commented before about missing the Fonger; hope he makes it during one of the last three eps, unless he has other commitments that will prevent it??

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